It was the culture shock none of us were prepared for: suddenly the government ordered us all to stay at home, seeing only our housemates or families (if we're lucky enough to live with someone else, that is). I guess some people are loving this: more time to relax, thriving on time alone. But probably more of us are finding things tricky. To me, it feels like a larger change in culture than the move from England to Portugal! None of us were prepared - and suddenly it happened to everyone.
But were people in some cultures more ready to accept these changes than others?
I can think of one way Portuguese people were more ready to accept quarantine than the British. It's to do with their attitude towards plans. In the UK, people make plans as if they are certain: ‘Yep, see you on Thursday at 7pm.’ But Portuguese people say something more like, ‘I can do tomorrow at 7pm... in principle!’. Their plans are more flexible, more on the hoof, often focusing on day-to-day living rather than month-to-month.
Because of this, it seems that in Portugal there is less stress and worry - about both the present and the future. No one knows what's going to happen. So why worry? We can see how things go and make plans when we get there. I’m appreciating this aspect of Portuguese culture so much more now, post-COVID. I've found that adopting this mindset (as far as I'm able!) has been really helpful.
But amidst the culture shock of COVID-19, we’re not to forget the ultimate culture shock that is still to come.
Jesus spoke about it when he was on earth – it is the day on which he will return to judge everyone. It will come out of nowhere for everyone, a bit like the way the pandemic came out of nowhere. It's scary - Jesus explained it as a time of terror and pain for many people. It'll be so massive, COVID-19 will pale in comparison. But the difference is that Jesus has warned us that this day is coming at some point. And knowing about this in advance makes an enormous difference.
We could try the British approach and make our own plans for life after death. The problem with this is that we can't enter God's kingdom by human plans. We could try the Portuguese approach and ‘see when we get there’ – but then it'll be too late to be forgiven.
However, Jesus has told us how to be utterly safe on the day he returns, which comes as a huge contrast to how much we can protect ourselves in the coronavirus situation. The King of the universe offers forgiveness freely and any person who accepts this has guaranteed security when he returns. For those people, it'll be a guaranteed good culture shock. The only way to have a good culture shock when Jesus returns is accepting the free forgiveness from him before it's too late. Anyone who accepts can look forward to that day. For those people, even in the lowest times we can know that though the route may be tough, the forever indestructible life is coming. In the greatest and deepest sense, there is no need to worry.
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Julia has been serving in Portugal since 2019, working with the Portuguese Christian Union movement. Her ministry includes reading the Bible with female students, discipling them and encouraging them in evangelism.
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